On his property, in the terroir, there are a lot of cultivated old grapes. “You need
to plant the right grapes in the right areas, to express the potential of the grapes.
If you want a lighter wine - pick the grapes a little earlier”. Swartland covers a
massive and diverse territory. On this family farm they have a long term vision.
Important elements for drive and motivation are independency and selfcontrol
of the economical aspects of having a farm. Finances are sometimes very hard.
Economical sustainability, sharing workers...etc. His aim is to be free, honest and
realiable in every aspect, on a daily basis. “Here, there is no room for preconceived
ideas - all of us need to be properly stimulated, but not categorized. Openness within the
community is an important source for approaching new and wonderful wines.”
TEXT EINAR JUELL PHOTO MATTIS BJØRNSEN
Andre Adriaan ‘Adi’ Badenhorst has wine in his blood. His grandfather was the general manager at Groot Constantia for 46 years. His father was born there and farmed on neighboring Buitenverwachting and Constantia Uitsig for many years. Adi too, grew up in the vineyards and spent his childhood picking (stealing) grapes.
The vintner at Buitenverwachting let young Adi make his first wine when he was thirteen. There really was no going back after that; Adi was destined for winemaking. Upon completing his studies, he worked harvests in France and New Zealand for a while and did a few stints at local cellars Simonsig, Steenberg, and Groote Post. The next nine years he spent as winemaker at the prominent Rustenberg Estate in Stellenbosch region.
Then, in 2008, he bought a 60-hectare plot of land with his cousin Hein, and the AA Badenhorst Family Wines were born in the Siebritskloof part of the Paardeberg Mountain in the Swartland region. The pair had their work cut out for them on the dilapidated Kalmoesfontein Farm that was last used in the 1930s – even in convincing their families to move here. But the neglected cellar buildings have been restored, and the farmhouse with its big open patio has become a wonderfully charming venue suitable for weddings and other celebrations.
We met Adi for a talk:
Obviously I had to come to Swartland. When I first came out here, it was just amazing. The humility of the area, the Bushvines. I thought I was in a different world. And it was just a blessing and a gift - that one could buy property like this.
The Swartland Revolution:
We decided to invite people to our region, the best and most inspiring winemakers of the world. Producers who we thought were “correct” winemakers in their field. Prominent journalists from France and California and amongst them wine writers. We basically celebrated great wines of the world and had different exciting seminars. A revolution started happening here, not just a movement of different people trying to make a lot of noise. There was a mind shift - a different way of approaching winemaking. A different way of approach, growing grapes, nurturing old vineyards.
A revolution doesn’t carry on forever. For us it’s a revolution in the way we think about winemaking - and we have accomplished a lot. We didn’t focus just on the spotlight once. It wasn’t like a market thing just for us and our wines - it was a celebration of extraordinary wines, throughout the world. It was a recognition of everyday life.
You know, a big mistake people make, and it really irritates me, is to compare our wines with wines from other regions. It has never been us vs “them” scenario. It will not work. In a more complex way we showed that a holistic way ought to be developed. We try and think about the complexity, the people and the community at large. We raised money and saw benefits from the exposure of the revolution, now turning into an evolution. We are still reflecting into the variety of concepts of winemaking. And most importantly, the people who came to the festival loved it.
We all benefited from each other’s great experiences related to real openness in mind and action. It’s very difficult to generalize. South Africans have been making wine here for almost three hundred years, a very old industry, still improving. Every generation thinks they’re making big strides. The right grapes in the right areas - is the most important.
We are striving towards natural acidity and balance. The most important for me is great growing, and the maturation in the cellar. The soul and the great diversity of soils and terroirs cannot compare my stuff from others.
My family and my cousin bought the farm seven years ago. We are just simple farmers. We’ve got a long term vision, and are not looking for any investment of any kind. We want to be free. At the end of the day we just keep it simple. We don’t have boardroom meetings. Enjoy your wine. Have fun.
We’ve got some of the oldest Grenache and Cinsault in the Paardeberg, Swartland. We will never pull out an old vineyard. We just replant with young vineyards in between, to keep them going. But obviously we will plant new vineyards as well.
I use stuff from my neighbors farm and share labor amongst the farmers as much as possible. If we need extra people we are trying to keep a pool of satisfied workers. As a part of a community we do our best trying too keep most of the people busy and paid for the whole year.
An important thing is obviously keeping a sound development, economically, environmentally and commercially - they’re all interlinked, we have to be sustainable.
Planning ahead - we just do what we have to do.
What I’ve learned over the last year: this has been an amazing journey: There is great potential to be something important for all of us, there is a share in it. Join in and do proper work everyday.
About the Wines:
The vineyards – Mostly old bushvines planted in the 1950’s and 1960’s to Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Grenache. The vines are unirrigated and farmed as biologically as possible. The vineyards are planted on north, east, and south facing slopes bringing tremendous variety to the fruit. Fruit from other selected sites within the appellation are also purchased to complete the final blends.
Occasional releases of a single vineyard Cinsault or Grenache.
Two wines are made and bottled under the AA Badenhorst range:
- A White Blend (Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Gris, Verdehlo, Colombar, Viognier, Chardonnay, Semillon and 3 others)
- And a Red Blend (Shiraz, Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault)
We also release three wines under our second tier, Secateurs:
- A Red Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache) a Chenin Blanc and the occational Rosé.
To keep busy while their wine matures, Badenhorst has branched out into a couple of interesting sidelines. Beer is one. Pyl Uil is their first, the name sounding like ‘pale ale’ (which it is) but literally meaning common owl.
Tired of looking for an affordable, quality craft tonic water, they also decided to make one, using spring water with hints of quinine, lime, cardamon and mint.
Last, but not least, in response to a century of mixologists and barmen searching for Caperitif, the elusive ‘ghost ingredient’ found in numerous cocktail recipes but not produced anywhere in the world, the 21st century version has recreated here, a Chenin Blanc fortified with spirit, gently sweetened by the sugar of the grapes, bittered by cinchona bark and flavoured with some 35 ingredients indiginous to the Cape such as fynbos, kalmoes and naartjies.
Where to find us
AA Badenhorst Family Wines
Kalmoesfontein Farm, Paardeberg, Swartland